Burn. Flicker. Die.
Last Chance Records

A band that evolves from a loose group of rowdy punks into a cohesive unit of seasoned players requires true, significant progression, and Raleigh, N.C.’s American Aquarium show off that maturation process in remarkable ways on their fifth album, Burn. Flicker. Die. The Jason Isbell-produced set finds the country rock outfit taking a step back from the tales of lovers and wild nights that they’ve favored in the past in order to examine a more expansive panorama — one that requires an honest vulnerability to view properly. Life, death and the worthiness of a nomadic existence provide the thematic fodder here, with the band broadening its sonic scope accordingly. “Northern Lights,” to cite but one satisfying turn, wraps a delicate string arrangement around frontman B.J. Barham’s molasses croon as he sings, “Anything I’ve ever loved, I’ve found a way to lose.” The album’s not all introspection and existential crisis, though. In the sing-along worthy, rocking ode to their home, “St. Mary’s,” Barham memorably proclaims himself a “pearl-snap poet with bad tattoos.” Six years into their run, American Aquarium is now a band with a firm grasp on both who they are and all that can be. Burn. Flicker. Die. is their coming of age. — KELLY DEARMORE